Tube Surfing: Dan Dare, Death’s Head and World Book Night outrage

Some quick news items…

• (via the Dan Dare Yahoo Group) A bust of Dan Dare is now sitting comfortably on a beautifully made plinth in a prominent position in the library of Southport College (where his creator, Frank Hampson and other original Dare team members, studied) as an inspiration to future budding Hampsons, Harold Johns or Eric Edens.

Once the library has been refurbished next year there is an intention to bring together a collection of Eagle-related material and have a special section set aside to display it.

• Paul Birch has posted an entertaining review of the Death’s Head Volume 2 collection on Speech Balloons, noting the history of Marvel UK as both a publisher of licensed comics and publisher of many US format comics during Paul Neary’s tenure as Editorial Director. “How many of the countless Marvel UK superheroes pumped out during that time can anyone remember fondly?” he challenges. “Aside from Death’s Head II by Dan Abnett and Liam Sharp that is? Not many, I’m sure…”

Off the top of my head? Warheads, Digitek, Motormouth and Killpower, Hell’s Angel (re-named Dark Angel after legal threats from the Hells Angels), Gene Dogs, Shadow Riders. Admittedly, I did edit some of those titles so my memory might be better than others. More important, perhaps, than the characters, was the sheer number of talented folk Paul and the MUK team nurtured between them, now widely known to the general comic audience: artists like Bryan Hitch who had worked for MUK for some time but was rightly given the limelight along with Liam Sharp, Gary Frank and many more.

• Let me join in with the widespread disappointment at the BBC’s decision to totally ignore readers of science fiction and fantasy on World Book Night in its BBC2 show, The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special (currently available here on iPlayer). Over on the Forbidden Planet International blog, Joe Gordon notes there was “outraged chatter on Twitter about this over the weekend” over the slight.

“The simple fact is that SF&F novels absolutely dominate the bestseller charts and have done for a couple of decades now,” notes Joe. “Terry Pratchett, Peter F Hamilton, Iain M Banks and many more almost always go right into the top ten national bestselling hardback list when their new books come out. You can’t do that if you are just a small, easily ignorable niche market.” Too right.

Joe reports that long time SF&F commentator (and bestselling author in his own right now) Stephen Hunt (founder of ace SF web site www.sfcrowsnest.com) has decided that instead of our usual moaning of the mainstream media’s dismissive and ignorant approach to our beloved genre that something should actually be done and the BBC made aware of how poor their decision was and how it meant they failed to serve the interest of a large percentage of viewers (who are the ones who fund the Corporation, after all). He has a fairly flaming response to the lack of coverage on his blog already.

“As the hour went by, strangely absent from this detailed parade of what people actually like to read was “a certain” genre, you know… the unclean one, speculative fiction, as in fantasy/horror/science fiction… which together accounts for between 20/30 per cent of the fiction market, depending on what measure you choose to believe.

“I can forgive the committee of World Book Night itself, whose selection of 25 titles to give one millions free copies away was made by a board which clearly apes the views of the Booker panel – which is that fantasy, horror and sci-fi, much like hardcore porn, has no place in any respectable fiction list, but the BBC?” (Philip Pulman’s Northern Lights was on the World Book Night list, but only, the BBC made clear, as an example of Young Adult-crossover – heaven forbid it should be an actual example of fantasy).

Outraged, Stephen has set up a Facebook page as well as planning a petition of Brit SF&F authors to complain at the complete lack of coverage by the BBC. So if, as individual viewers based in the UK, you want to complain to the BBC about failing to cover a single fantasy, horror or science fiction novel, the online form to do this is located at… https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/ … the more complaints, the better! Don’t forget to mention the snobby show that started all this.


Perhaps, if enough people write in, we’ll get a decent SF show on TV – and no, I’m not talking about Outcasts, which made it clear it was more about the “human condition” than SF, and has rightly bombed in the ratings as a result of boring its audience to death…

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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